Why we chose constitutional democracy: Mbeki

Former president Thabo Mbeki

Former president Thabo Mbeki

Published May 23, 2022


Former president Thabo Mbeki has weighed in on the debate about constitutional democracy versus parliamentary democracy after some of the ruling party leaders questioned the former.

Mbeki told the ANC Youth League task team political school conference at the weekend that the issue of constitutional democracy should be drawn from discussions that happened on the quality of members sent to Parliament.

He said when the ANC was preparing for negotiations in the early 1990s it met its Alliance partners and the Mass Democratic Movement on whether the country should have a parliamentary democracy or constitutional democracy.

After discussions it was agreed that it would best serve the country to have a constitutional democracy as this would keep Parliament in check.

Despite the fact that leaders are elected into Parliament, they still need to be governed by certain values.

Members of Parliament have to subscribe to a set of values.

It was in this context that the country at the end of the day settled for a constitutional democracy.

“If you look at the document ‘Ready to Govern’ you will find reference to this matter referring to the discussion that took place within the broad movement as to, do we have a parliamentary democracy or constitutional democracy and the decision was let’s have a constitutional democracy for the following reasons.

“Now when we put the matter back on our agenda, then you must bring back that history to say where this thing originates from in terms of the movement and why.

“The reason was very simple, comrades. Basically, even elected structures like Parliaments need to be governed by certain values, certain values which must be very fundamental in the making of South Africa,” said Mbeki.

“We are making an observation about what is happening to ourselves as a movement and the decline in the quality of membership.

“We will have elections and the ANC will have MPs in Parliament in the majority. What happens if the majority of them reflect that decline in membership?

“We said ‘whoever gets elected there is a particular set of values this liberated South Africa we are fighting for must honour and we will put those values in a Constitution’. They are binding on anybody, including those we have elected,” said Mbeki.

He said when you look at the issue of local government it was a different field because councillors are directly accountable to their wards.

He said councillors would get their development programmes directly from the wards they represent.

This was a different system to national and provincial governments.

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Political Bureau